by Banjot Chanana

5 reasons for containerizing your legacy Windows Server applications

Sep 13, 2018
Cloud ComputingContainersDevelopment Tools

Why leading enterprises across the globe are turning to a container management platform to breathe new life into legacy Windows Server applications.

Applications are the lifeblood of your business and keeping them alive and well on modern infrastructure is essential to maintaining operational excellence. With Microsoft no longer supporting Windows Server (WS) 2003 and support for WS 2008 officially being discontinued in January of 2020, the reasons to modernize your legacy applications are only growing. Cost of maintenance will skyrocket, while security and compliance risks will increase without regular patches. So, the inevitable challenge your organization will need to address in the short term is how to best get these applications onto current Windows Server releases (such as WS 2016 or later) and/or into the cloud.

The thought of updating these applications is a daunting task that requires intensive planning, significant cost and execution that often includes completely rewriting applications to modern infrastructure. But containerization – specifically container platforms – tackles these concerns by providing a fast and simple way to transform expensive and difficult-to-maintain applications into efficient, secure and portable applications ready for the hybrid cloud and further modernization.

Here are five reasons why leading enterprises across the globe are turning to a container management platform to breathe new life into legacy Windows Server applications.

1. Legacy Windows Server applications are nearing end of life

It’s now been over three years since Microsoft ended support for the Windows Server 2003 operating system. Since then, the product no longer receives security patches or assisted technical support from Microsoft. This can increase the threat of harmful viruses and other malicious software affecting your business. And as you are aware, delaying upgrades puts your organization at compliance risk. Organizations face a similar situation with WS 2008 applications as Microsoft will be officially ending support for Windows Server 2008 R2 editions on January 14, 2020. Many enterprises are future-proofing their applications with container platforms designed to refresh Windows Server 2003/2008 applications on modern infrastructure. This approach saves money and bolsters security and performance across the application lifecycle.

2. It’s easier to modernize your applications than you think

Getting applications to run on Windows 2016 and in the cloud doesn’t have to require the effort and cost typically associated with the term “modernization.” First, containerizing most applications on a container platform will require no code changes. You can containerize a 15-year old Windows Server application and using a container platform, like Docker Enterprise, the containerized application can run on Windows Server 2016 or in the cloud. Take Jabil as an example – the company turned to the Docker container platform to modernize .NET applications and migrate them to the cloud. The types of applications can also vary, including a mixture of older web technologies – static HTML, ASP and ASP.NET WebForms for instance. As your business needs evolve, you can start to create microservices around these legacy applications to give them the functionality that organizations look for from newer, greenfield applications.

3. Improve security and mitigate compliance risk simultaneously

Not only will you gain the comfort knowing you’re running the latest version of Windows by containerizing your legacy applications, but you also open the door to unique security advantages that containers have to offer. With a container platform, applications benefit from integrated security across the application lifecycle with an auditable chain of custody – including image signing to maintain integrity in your software development process and security scanning to ensure verified and clean applications. Secrets management and role-based access control can further enhance your overall security posture even for legacy applications.

Once you have containerized Windows 2003 applications, you can increase your frequency of patching and address security vulnerabilities and outdated components more quickly. In a container environment, standardization on compliance controls can be implemented quickly as part of an application deployment. Compliance auditors will be ready when 2020 rolls around – you don’t want to risk compliance violations and the legal ramifications that come from it.

4. The return on investment is immediate

Typical application modernization techniques will either force a complete application re-write or will just move the problem from on-premises to the cloud. In either case, the return on investment will take years to materialize. The traditional “lift and shift” approach doesn’t enable you to take advantage of the benefits that comes with containers whether on-premises or in the cloud – from improved security and governance to cost-efficiencies.

With a container strategy, you will also realize the benefits of reducing the number of VMs and operating systems needed for your applications. It’s very common for companies to put multiple applications in one VM using containers, which can result in a 50% reduction in VM usage. In turn, this also brings down operations expenditure for patching and maintenance. And your freed-up budget can then be used to spur other strategic IT initiatives, such as application modernization, cloud migration and DevOps.

5. Your applications will be portable and cloud-ready

Containerizing Windows Server legacy applications brings portability across environments and infrastructure, thereby accelerating migration to the cloud. While it sounds as though refactoring would be in the cards, there’s no need to change a single line of code to take advantage of the portability benefits that go hand-in-hand with containers. With a container platform, like Docker Enterprise, organizations can containerize legacy applications and make them portable both on-premises and in hybrid/multi-cloud environments. Legacy Windows Server applications can easily become cloud-ready and continue to play an important role in driving business success.